The Grapevine

Are You Selling a Commodity?

April 19th, 2016

A recent article in Forbes takes the position that wine is, for the most part, a commodity, and always has been. [level-members]

There’s real truth to that, at least as the article lays it out. The vast majority of wine and wine grapes in the world are sold as bulk products. A relative small handful of multinational companies dominate the marketplace in terms of volume. Then again, very little of that wine is ultimately sold in unlabeled casks to consumers. It’s bottled, branded, and sold. So, the argument could be made that the article is wrong. It all depends on what you think about household staples like toilet paper, paper towels, and toothpaste. Commodities, perhaps. But branded commodities. And not interchangeable to most consumers the way true commodities are.

Still, you shouldn’t be in the commodity business. You’ve got nothing to sell on other than price and convenience. One is a death spiral, and the other is, by definition, limited geographically. But it does help to understand that the brand you’re selling isn’t necessarily all about the label on the bottle. The brand you’re selling is your shop’s personality.

In other words, just like most people have their preferences for toilet paper and toothpaste, most people have their preferences for, say, Friday night pizza wine. But if you’re out of the Chianti they prefer, they’ll probably be happier with a Barbera in the same price range than they would be drinking, root beer …

Keep that in mind with every customer touchpoint from the look of your shop to the wines you carry to how you ring up sales to how you engage with people on email and social media. [/level-members]